Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Album review: HILARY HAHN & HAUSCHKA - Silfra

Highlights: Clock Winder, Krakow, North Atlantic, Ashes

Two things got me interested in this album (other than my considerable admiration for Hauschka’s piano playing), the achingly beautiful “Krakow” heard almost by chance and the song title “Godot” (subject of my literary research for several years now). Was all worth it in the end – Silfra is not always an easy listen, sometimes its artsy minimalism gets a little trying, but overall this album is an outstanding piece of modern classical music.

As is clearly seen above, Silfra is a collaboration between Hauschka (whose Ferndorf should be in everyone’s collection) and the violinist Hilary Hahn. Moody, neurotic, Satie-like piano is countered by some of the most gorgeous, odd and just plain harrowing sounds a violin can produce. The album is really about evocative soundscapes that go from euphoria to despair. My personal favourites are the brief, beguiling gems like “Krakow” and “Ashes” that lovingly remind you of Satie’s timeless “Gnossienne” pieces. As far as my lame, completely unnecessary complaints go, I’d mention that occasionally they get so carried away with their unnerving, atmospheric passages that you start missing Hauschka’s piano playing. However, the way it suddenly emerges from under screeching, clattering noises is absolutely magical.  

Part ambient, part classical, Silfra is the sort of album that manages to be both challenging (the almost 13-minute “Godot” in particular can be quite unsettling) and understated. Which is one of the best things modern classical music can do.


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